Laura James to champion D&I as chair of renewable energy gender diversity group

The Globeleq senior HR manager believes there is synchronicity between renewable energy and D&I.

Globeleq’s senior human resources manager Laura James was recently elected chair of the joint South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA)/South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) Gender Diversity Working Group.

Laura says the group is the first formalised wind and solar industry group in the country that focuses on this issue.

She explains that, “The Renewable Energy Gender Diversity Working Group’s goals are necessarily lofty and simultaneously exciting. I hope to bring my organisational development experience to steer, support and drive the volunteer working group members to bring these inspiring objectives to fruition.”

She says the working group’s mandate includes no less than eight objectives over the coming years. “These range from development opportunities – including a leadership acceleration programme, coaching and mentoring opportunities and educational events – to holding ourselves accountable as an industry through a gender diversity charter and performance reporting. We also aim to actively create opportunities for women through the working group platform and we will partner with other associations to realise these goals.”

Making diversity real
Laura believes that in order for organisations to truly engage with – and benefit from – diversity and inclusion, there must be a strong and unambiguous message from top leadership. Then, to get organisations aligned, it’s important for top leadership to understand and communicate how organisations benefit from diversity.

“They also need to identify potential pitfalls that may contradict the creation of a more diverse and inclusive culture,” she says. “It also helps to ensure diversity efforts are aligned to people management practices that are already in existence. Finally, leaders must unanimously communicate this across the business.

“While D&I efforts and initiatives fall logically into the wider sphere of human resources, it cannot be simply the ‘job of HR’ to create workplaces that reflect the societies we live in and that are welcoming to all.”

Laura sees the potential to make change in this important sector, and points to a 2020 report by IRENA and the Women in Wind Global Leadership Program, which shows that women represent only 21 percent of the global wind energy workforce.

She explains that studies of women’s representation in the solar industry indicate a similar gender imbalance. The challenge of under-representation of women in the renewable energy industry is as much a South African challenge as it is a global one.

“I believe there is a wonderful synchronicity between the renewable energy industry and diversity and inclusion,” she says. “Renewable energy sustainably creates opportunities for wealth – without electricity, economies fail. When organisations embrace diversity and create inclusive cultures, they too ensure their own sustainability, which in turn creates wealth for all their stakeholders.”